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After SC intervention, Patna HC recalls suspension of POCSO judge

Nudged by the Supreme Court, the Patna High Court has withdrawn the suspension order of a judicial officer, who was penalised for completing a minor’s rape trial in a record time of one day.

The high court has also dropped the disciplinary proceedings against the judge.

Shashi Kant Rai, an Additional Sessions Judge from Araria in Bihar, had moved the apex court through advocate Nitin Saluja challenging the suspension order issued by the high court. On August 8, the Supreme Court had asked the Patna High Court to drop all disciplinary proceedings against a suspended additional sessions judge from Bihar for deciding POCSO cases within days.

A bench comprising justices U. U. Lalit and Ravindra Bhat told the counsel representing the high court: “Our sincere advice is to drop everything. If you don’t want to, we’ll go threadbare into it..”. The bench said unless there are allegations of corruption and malafide only then disciplinary action is justified.

Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, representing the high court, submitted that he would inform the high court. “There shouldn’t be overzealousness to punish,” Justice Bhat had added. Senior advocate Vikas Singh represented Rai in the apex court. Singh said his client was willing to submit a statement to the high court rebutting the charges against him.

The top court orally told the high court’s counsel, “He’s only following up on his orders, extremely unfair on him…It sends a bad message to others, who are otherwise efficient”.

Citing the apex court order on August 8, the high court, in an order passed on August 12, said it will drop departmental proceedings against Rai, special judge POCSO-cum-additional district and sessions judge VI Araria, which was initiated against him on August 5. The high court also recalled the order of suspension issued against him in February this year and the renewal of suspension in August.

On July 29, the top court issued a notice to the registrar general and the state government on the claim by Rai that his suspension order and the pending disciplinary proceedings against him recorded no reasons.

Rai sought to quash the non-speaking suspension order dated February 8, 2022, issued by the Patna High Court and the purported disciplinary proceedings as mentioned therein, being malicious, illegal and arbitrary.

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